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Posted March 28, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Authorities warn of building scams


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WINCHESTER -- Spring inspires home improvement but also draws out construction con artists, authorities warn.

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office receives reports each year around this time from residents who say they've fallen victim to construction fraud and scams, according to a press release from the agency. Most such scams involve the application of driveway sealant, authorities say. Most victims are elderly people.

Investigators say certain patterns should alert residents to possible scams. Con artists:

* Usually contact the victim directly and though most reputable firms do not do door-to-door solicitation, some have started to do so due to the current economy.

* Say they have leftover product they can give to the person as a good deal and quote a reasonable price.

* Present a generic work proposal.

* Have work trucks with no logos on the sides, or have a generic magnetic sign with little information as to address, phone number or license.

* Complete the work, then give a price of several thousand dollars.

* Are very friendly and courteous at first but then become harsh and try to intimidate the customer into paying.

* Cash checks the same day.

Before residents allow someone to start work on a project, authorities advise them to:

* Ask to see the contractor's license or receive a copy or look up online for licensing and prior complaints at www.dpor.virginia.gov/dpor

* Ask for and check references prior to signing a contract.

Daily Staff Report

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